Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Carry laws vary by state. Make sure you know your state’s laws and what you are legally required to do if you are contacted by the cops in your state while carrying.
This article was originally published at The Bang Switch several years ago, but the question of what to do has been posed to me a number of times recently, so I dug this up and am reposting it here for those who may be wondering the same thing. If this goes anything like it did when I first published this, there will inevitably be some folks who will comment saying you should never volunteer any information to the cops that you are not required to by law. Please realize I am not telling you what to do by writing this, I am answering the question that was posed to me: “What do you suggest people do if they are carrying when stopped by the cops?” The following is my answer to that question.
So there you are, walking down the sidewalk or driving down the road, minding your own business and you get stopped or contacted by the cops. If you are like me, you will have a gun on you, no matter what you were doing or where you were going, because the first, most important step in using your handgun to protect yourself is having it with you.
This situation can be quite nerve wracking for some, so I am going to try and shed a little firsthand light on it. I have the distinct pleasure of having been on both sides of this equation, and how you handle yourself as the concealed carrier plays a big part in how relaxed or how stressful this encounter will turn out.
First, let me say that carry laws vary dramatically state to state, as do the laws requiring you to inform law enforcement if you are indeed carrying. It is imperative for you to know the laws of the state you are in. That said, my suggestion is to always, politely let the cop know you are licensed (if applicable) and that you are carrying. My suggestion is, prior to reaching for a wallet or anything, say something along the lines of “Officer, I just want to let you know that I am a licensed concealed carrier (if applicable) and I have a gun on my right hip (or left hip, front waistband or where ever it is).”
Having been stopped in the past while carrying, I not only let the cop know I am carrying and where, but when reaching for my wallet to produce my ID, I am sure to make slow, deliberate motions as my wallet is generally in the back pocket on the same side as my gun. Doing so is another way to ensure you do not end up on the muzzle end of the cop’s gun.
That simple act of politely letting the cop know you are armed and licensed (if applicable) can prevent the otherwise innocuous motion of reaching for your wallet from looking like you are reaching for a gun, if the cop were to see your weapon and you had not said anything to him. That mishap could end very badly for one or both of you. Cops, by the very nature of our jobs, are very distrustful of people. People, even otherwise good, law abiding citizens lie to us every day (no officer, I wasn’t speeding/I stopped completely at that stop sign/I was not tailgating/I was not talking or texting on my phone, etc). By letting the officer politely know you have your gun, you are introducing a level of trust into your encounter, which will likely play in your favor. If nothing else, it will probably lower the stress level of both you and the officer, because he is no longer worrying about if you are armed and you are no longer worrying about printing or exposing your gun. (End of original article)
Not long ago, due to the incessant claims by some that cops are just out there shooting unarmed black men for no reason, I put together a video in which I talked (generally speaking) about what causes people to get shot by the cops, from a cops perspective. The first half of the video consists of armed citizens encountering the cops, and not getting shot. It might be worth a watch for those who find themselves worried about the potential of a similar encounter.